EVEN IN A RECESSION financial institutions tend to do well.
So at this time when many businesses are crying out about a dip in earnings the opposite is true for commercial banks, credit unions and other deposit-taking and money-lending businesses.
They don’t appear to be hurting. Their bottom lines continue to look good.
I have not heard of one of them operating in Barbados which can complain of a poor financial performance. The profits keep rolling in. As long as a business can turn a profit, then shareholders can earn well deserved dividends and some of the profits can be used for expansion, including employing more people and paying those already employed much better.
Investment in technology and new spanking buildings are important parts of the business development process. But nothing should beat excellent customer service, and yet this often seems to be second or third of mind and class with the banks.
Take the case of the big brand name banks – Republic, Scotia and FirstCaribbean – which offer truly contrasting service in bustling Warrens, St Michael.
Like many people, I had developed an aversion to doing business at Republic Bank, because of the very slow pace of business there. It was simply ridiculous. After complaining, someone suggested that I go to the Holetown branch. Oh, what a complete difference. Perhaps it has to do with the location and what appears to be the target market of the customers there.
Admittedly, on a recent trip back to Republic at Warrens, it seems as if there had been a transformation. Certainly on that day the line just kept moving.
Over at the FCIB, it can be a nightmare, especially if you there only to cash a cheque. It seems as if there is first class and second class and cheque cashing falls into the category of any other. From experience, consider Mondays and Fridays as days to avoid, and any day before or after a public holiday. These are horrible days, certainly at FCIB Warrens.
It can be extremely frustrating just standing there for what seems an age. The situation becomes dread if someone has a transaction which requires toing and froing as is often the case, especially when it is a senior citizen who has to take a seat. Thankfully, they are offered a seat.
But just imagine the number of diabetics using the bank, hungry and wanting to use a toilet. Well as one staff member said, you can go into the mall.
By the time you make the cashier you can be frustrated and totally fed up. The only saving grace is the good service from front-line staff such as Kimberley Bourne.
From observation while waiting and waiting, it was interesting to note the service given by, not FCIB staff, but a private security guard. There he was helping the elderly into and out of the bank and speaking to people waiting to go to the ABM, which was non-functioning on that day.
On a return visit to the bank, there he was, once again, helping an old man with his walker get into a vehicle immediately at the bank’s entrance. Daniel Howard obviously understands customer service and the importance of the people who go to that branch of FCIB.
He recognises that customers must not be placed at the back of the queue and that they matter most in this service industry. While he reached out to help, his colleague kept an eye on the comings and goings of customers.
The banks have enhanced their customer service over the years, but there is still more than should be done. They must listen to public opinion, to customers, to analysts such as former banker Harry Russell, and their own staff who are in touch with the community. They must not only focus on creative ways of extracting user fees and unreasonable high credit card interest rates.
Yes, profit and growth are absolutely necessary, but banking must be much more than these two things. It must be about the customer and care of the customer to ensure retention at all levels.